Saturday, September 06, 2008


BELIEVERS. One of the people who have been charged with the crime of knowingly accepting money stolen from local notable Frank McDonald says that she took the money with the intention of returning it to the rightful owner. Sheryl Wnenta says she joined a drinking party on July 24th, was given a packet of cash, was told where it came from, was threatened with punishment if she revealed its criminal source, but held it intact in order to return it all at the end of the month, along with the $50 that she owed Mr McDonald from a personal loan. Mr McDonald had befriended her on many previous occasions. In the estimation of three local businessmen who have employed her, Ms Wnenta’s story could be true. “Even though she is woefully short of judgment about men and alcohol,” says one of them, Frank Cuthbert, “Sheryl is compulsively honest. She did take the money, but didn’t spend it and didn’t invent a fairy tale about how she acquired it. If the police had not gotten to her first, I believe, she would’ve given back the money.” Positive estimates of Ms Wnenta’s honesty have been voiced by Catskill employers Tom Thornton and Clarence Bugg. After prolonged incarceration in the county jail in lieu of posting $2500 bail or $5000 bond, Ms Wnenta has been released on her own recognizance. That decision was made by a county judge on the advice of District Attorney Terry Wilhelm.

UPDATE. Bits of information or gossip about that robbery, and about the property sale that preceded it (Seeing Greene, 8/15) have come our way. It seems that Michael Conine, the man who is suspected by police of taking the huge stash of cash from the trunk of Mr McDonald’s car, did so after Mr McDonald had lent him the car, and not for the first time. As to how the police got wind of the robbery (of which Mr McDonald had no knowledge), another explanation is that children of one of the receivers of stolen cash went on a buying spree at WalMart. Anyhow, in the wake of the odd property transaction of July 25th, followed by the extraction of the hoard of cash from Mr McDonald’s car and by other events, Mr McDonald on August 6th assigned power of attorney to Catskill lawyer Joseph Stanzione (who has not returned our calls).

JUDGED JUDGES. A GreeneLand town justice resigned recently in the face of substantiated complaints about her official conduct, and another town justice was admonished by a State watchdog panel. for multiple, “significant” instances of stalling.

----New York State’s Commission on Judicial Conduct found that Cairo justice Thomas W. Baldwin failed on several occasions to make rulings on cases that had been “pending for several years.” For these acts of "significant" stalling, the Commission meted out an admonition, which is less severe than a censure or a removal.

-----Rebecca McGowan of Jewett resigned on July 31st in the wake of allegations to the Commission that she presided over five cases where the defendant was a relative or a family friend, and that on eight occasions she failed to make timely deposits of court funds. Reports of these actions by the Commission were published in The TimesUnion and The Daily Mail. More information, on those cases and on 14 other disciplinary proceedings against local part-time judges that came before the Commission during the first half of this year, is accessible at

-----Included in the McGowan findings is a letter in which the respondent reviews the matters cited, admits error in some cases and denies it in others, and appeals for understanding of special circumstances.

-----Jewett is a “small rural community,” says Ms McGowan, where her antecedents settled back in 1787 and where “it is very difficult to not know a majority of the population.” On her first day in office the senior town justice, Stanley Tatar, put in her hands a case in which defendant was charged with violating a local dog control law. She dismissed the charge without a hearing and without notifying the prosecutor, an Assistant District Attorney. The defendant was the Judge Tatar’s son, who also was her brother-in-law. She felt misgivings about handling the case rather than excusing herself, but Judge Tatar “assured me that because Charlie [Tatar] and I were not blood relatives,” and because “only a local law” was involved, her acceptance of jurisdiction was “no big deal.”

-----On subsequent occasions Ms McGowan did not exclude herself from presiding over cases in which two defendants were second cousins and another was a family friend. The charges related to motor vehicle laws, dog control, marijuana and burglary. While acknowledging that she probably should not have taken on those cases, she cited special circumstances, and she indirectly disputed evidence that her rulings were inordinately lenient.

“SUMMER COTTAGES” is the title of Weekend America broadcast on American Public Media last Tuesday, featuring part-time GreeneLanders Cornelius Eady, the poet, and his wife Sarah Micklem, graphic designer and writer. With warmth and wit, the interviewees dwell on the contrast between their tiny “tunnel apartment” in Manhattan and their fragile Cairo cottage. To hear and read the interview, including two poems that will be published in Mr Eady’s forthcoming collection titled Hardheaded Weather, go to then to Find Past Shows and Stories, then to 2008/August “Summer Cottages.” (The Eady-Micklem sense of bucolic tranquility evidently is not disturbed by knowledge of ongoing strife among Cairo dwellers over firematics, subdivisions, zoning, planning…).

JUST OUT, from Black Dome Press: a new book by Diane Galusha, titled Another Day, Another Dollar: The Civilian Conservation Corps in the Catskills. It’s all about this region’s part of a New Deal program during the great pre-World War II depression, when thousands of jobless men were hired, at one dollar a day plus bed and board, to carry out forest restoration and conservation programs. Ms Galusha, a journalist who currently works for the Catskill Watershed Corporation in Margaretville, recalls what took place in 11 CCC camps that operated in GreeneLand and six other Catskills counties. In a foreword, Bill McKibben (Middlebury College scholar in residence; author of The End of Nature), recalls that “the CCC planted 3 billion trees (which would be no small help with global warming)” and invites us to “imagine an army of similar size trained to insulate American homes and stick solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs.” Ms Galusha’s book “offers a glimpse of how, with the same sort of vision, cooperation, hard work and political will we might tackle the earth-altering changes that darken our very doorstep.”

UNCLAIMED DEPO$IT$ II. Trustco Bank of Glenville NY names GreeneLand individuals, firms or trusts as depositors whose funds in long-idle accounts will go to the State unless properly claimed. Among them are a county legislator, Charles Martinez, and a well-known, long-time resident young woman: Ashley Hopkins. Among others: Richard Allen, ASAP Auto Supply, John Creech, Kirsten Dalland, Andrew Davis, Isaac Davis, Daniel Marchesani, Lawrence Mark, Joseph Mazur, Renee Peckovitch, the Olga Santora Revocable Trust (at 2 Franklin St = library?), Jacob Rivette, Patricia Wade and Billy Weber, all of Catskill, plus William Bacon, Theresa Ballard, Regina Cozzocrea, Robert Dyer, Helen Husmann, Shelby McNeil, Bernadette Nugent, Meagan Oneill, Justin Schmidt, Mary Smith, Robert Stark, Lillias Teague, John Telfer and Christopher Young.

WIND POWER. Tree farmers Russell (Skip) and Rosie Veeder of Earlton have been given at $23,000 U.S. Dept of Agriculture grant to buy an electricity-generating wind turbine. It comes out of a $1.6 million fund dispensed by New York State from a $35 million USDA budget. According to reporter Jim Planck (Daily Mail, 8/30), Mr Veeder made point of thanking U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand “for all her work on this,” as well as thanking USDA officer Scott Collins. The Veeders’ wind turbine will be the first in New York to support a Christmas tree farm. Lots of electric power is needed there, Mr Veeder explained, to discourage deer; they lust after conifers.

OOPS! Mid-Hudson Cable screens a television advertisement touting its “Digtial Cable” service.

CORRECTIONS. The former proprietor of Birch Hill Power Products (mentioned in Seeing Greene, 8/29) is Kirk (not Kurt) Yates. And GreeneLand's Rip Van Winkle Express does not transport clients of ARC, Veterans’ Affairs or Community Action. Those agencies transport their own clients. The feasibility of integrating their transport services is being studied. What is more, the State Police who was mentioned in a previous blog is Scott Youngblood, not Young. {Latter correction was inserted after original posting of this blog. In addition, the Yates name correction was corrected.}

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